Posts Tagged 'Community Development'

April 3, 2014

Sprint Accelerator Spices Up Silicon Prairie

As part of the community development team here at SoftLayer, I get to travel the world and reach into cities to help local, born-on-the-Web communities grow and prosper. Last week, my travels took me (and my rock star team) to Kansas City, where we were invited to mentor startups in the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator powered by TechStars (PBTS).

I know when you think of KC, you might not think of a technology startup community. As part of Silicon Prairie, where startups and tech are thriving, KC is taking its place amongst US tech communities, as companies like Sprint, Garmin, H&R Block, and Hallmark are investing in the local startup community.

Through the course of the days I spent in KC, we talked to 10 startups and held technical office hours. What we learned is that the startups in this accelerator had all of the qualities we hope to find: grit and determination coupled with brains and insane talent. (And some of the teams we met with are growing so quickly that they even have open positions.)

What struck me most from my trip was the sheer fact that even though I live in the epicenter of all things tech startup, I can see with my own eyes that the rest of the world is catching up––and they are doing so quickly. Most of the teams at Sprint PBTS are not from the startup mega cities like New York and San Francisco. They are from places off the beaten path. I’m happy to see it, and I’m even more excited for my trips later this year to other parts of the country like Memphis, Detroit, and Okanagan, where I’m sure to be as impressed as I was with KC.

True, for the time being the venture capital and investment communities will likely still steer startups toward the Bay Area, but I’m not convinced that is a trend that will continue forever. I’m more and more certain that as we advance technologies—and as SoftLayer maintains its edge in building the best platform on which to create them––geography will become a secondary factor in the success of startups.

Our Catalyst Startup Program provides that platform for early stage startups around the globe. Members have innovative concepts that need reliable infrastructure to support their growth from idea to enterprise. Recently, I sat down in front of a camera to share an overview of the program and it's benefits from the perspective of Catalyst member HAUL. Here is a crash course on Catalyst:

I believe in a year, a few of the teams from the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator will combine forces to create one company that will eventually become a household name. Their evolution will be fun to watch from the beginning to end. And we are going to watch them closely. They’re going to do it, and we are going to be with them every step of the way.

-@joshuakrammes

March 5, 2014

Making an Impact: Catalyst and BEHUM

Running a startup is hard. We all know that. The right help at the right time makes all the difference, and for many, finding that help is a challenge. Not knowing who to ask for help or where to meet the right people to help move the needle in the right direction, many entrepreneurs and startup teams don't even know where to start.

That's one of the biggest reasons we created Catalyst. When entrepreneurs are passionate enough about an idea to ditch "safe" careers to build their own companies, we want to help them succeed by getting them access to the right resources.

That vision may seem simple on paper, but when I reconnected with a Catalyst program graduate last night, I was humbled to hear how Catalyst helped his company succeed. That entrepreneur was Neal Bram, founder of BEHUM – Be Heard You Matter. BEHUM is a political engagement platform that empowers voters to take simple but meaningful actions to support the candidates and political issues they believe in. Or to put it more simply, BEHUM helps individuals make their political views a reality.

When I spoke with Neal about his Catalyst experience, he explained, "For this to work we need reliability and SoftLayer has always been up to the task. When a leading political official sends a BEHUM link to 2 million individuals at the same time as a statewide advocacy group’s petition is going viral, we have to stay up.” Those numbers might not seem huge for the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, but for early stage startups that can’t afford to pay for more capacity than they need, it's a mountainous task. The Catalyst program provides free cloud hosting resources for early stage startups like BEHUM, allowing them to be confident and aggressive about seizing opportunities to accelerate growth without fear of breaking the bank.

Hearing that the scalability of our platform could accommodate BEHUM's demands felt good, but what Neal said next was what really stuck with me: “Catalyst is far more than the technology and economics. It’s a network of entrepreneurs helping each other led by Catalyst mentors who provide invaluable insights and connections.”

It's easy for the tangible benefits of the program to get the lion's share of a startup's attention, so when I hear about qualitative and relational impact the Catalyst team is making, I know we're doing something right. When I asked Neal if he had any specific examples of that type of involvement, he answered, “Whether it’s commenting on pitches, input on business models, or making an important introduction, the Catalyst program provided BEHUM the right help at the right time.”

That's the best feedback any Catalyst customer could ever give about the program.

If you want your views on candidates and political issues to be heard, head over to BEHUM. And if you're interested in connecting with Neal and his team, let me know, and I'll make that happen.

-@JoshuaKrammes

May 22, 2013

Catalyst at SXSW 2013: Startup Community Partners

Much of the buzz you've heard about Catalyst has to do with our relationships with the entrepreneurs and startups we support around the world. That buzz is understandable since the hosting, mentorship and networking perks of the program are the most visible aspects of the program, but to truly understand why Catalyst has been so successful, we have to shine the spotlight on our partner organizations in the startup community. Without close ties to the most powerful and successful startup-focused organizations, my team would have a much tougher time meeting and introducing the best and brightest startups to SoftLayer's platform.

When the folks on the Community Development team are not working directly with the companies in the Catalyst, they're looking for opportunities to help and serve our huge network of business incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and startup events. As a result, we stay pretty busy. To give you an idea of what a given month looks like for us, Catalyst is supporting seventeen different startup-related events in six different countries over the course of the next thirty days. We're lucky that we love what we do so much ... Otherwise, that schedule might seem pretty daunting.

If you've been an avid SoftLayer Blog reader (as you should be), you know that we work closely with organizations like TechStars and 500 Startups, but you haven't heard much about the other types of partnerships we build in the startup community. We want to provide Catalyst companies with resources outside of hosting that can make their lives easier, and that means we have to find killer partners that focus specifically on the needs and wants of startup companies. To give you an idea of what those partners look like, I'd like to introduce you to a few of them via their video interviews from SoftLayer's Catalyst Startup Lounge at SXSW:

As we've done with the Startups Speak interviews, we'll be adding videos from our partners to the YouTube playlist above so that you can meet them and learn more about the value they uniquely provide to the startup community.

I'd love to take more time to explain how we incorporate services from these partners in the Catalyst program, but I think I'm late for a plane to Vancouver ... or Chicago ... or New York ... or San Francisco. In any case, I should probably head to the airport.

-@PaulFord

November 20, 2012

Community Development: Catalysing European Startups

SoftLayer works hard and plays hard. A few weeks ago, I traveled to Dallas for the first "Global Catalyst Summit"* where the community development teams in Europe, Asia and the United States all came together under one roof to learn, strategize and bond. What that really means is that we all experienced a week of hardcore information flow and brutal fun.

The onboarding process to become a part of the SoftLayer's Community Development (Catalyst) team is pretty rigorous, and traveling to Dallas from Amsterdam for the training made it even more intense. In short order, I learned about the roots of the Catalyst program and why SoftLayer is so interested in investing in helping startups succeed. I got the low-down on the hundreds of companies that are taking advantage of the program right now, and I was inspired by the six incredible people who focus exclusively on the Catalyst program at SoftLayer ... And Big Tex:

SoftLayer Community Development Team and Big Tex

When the whirlwind week of orientation and training came to an end, I came to a solid conclusion: I am working at SoftLayer for a reason. I believe SoftLayer has the most kick-ass global on-demand technology platform out there, and our focus on innovation and automation is reflected in everything we do. On top of that, we give that platform to startups to help springboard their success. I get to work with a community of world-changers. Needless to say, that's an amazing conclusion to come to.

As a member of the Catalyst team in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), I can provide signficant resources to entrepreneurs who are building awesome new applications and technologies that are making a difference locally, regionally and globally. Anna Bofill Bert and I work out of SoftLayer's Amsterdam office, and we are fully dedicated to helping startup and developer communities in our region.

As a review exercise and a way to educate the audience that may be unfamiliar with Catalyst, I thought I'd bullet out a few of the main ideas:

What is Catalyst?

The SoftLayer Catalyst Startup Program provides:

  • A generous monthly hosting credit toward dedicated, cloud or hybrid compute environments for a FULL YEAR (Ideal for dev-ops/next generation startup compute applications who want high performance from the start).
  • Direct connection to highest level programming team at SoftLayer — Our Innovation Team. Participating companies get help and advice from the people that are writing the book on highly scalable, global infrastructure environments.
  • Connection to the SoftLayer Marketing and PR Team for help getting spreading the word around the world about all the cool stuff participating startups are doing.

We reach startups by listening to them and meeting needs that all of them express. We are telling the SoftLayer story, networking, making friends, drinking too much and travelling like mad. In the course of a month, we went to Lean Start Up Machine in Rotterdam, Structure Europe in Amsterdam, Pioneers Festival in Vienna, HowToWeb in Bucharest and we managed to complete a quick tour of startup communities in Spain.

Like our peers on the US team, we partner with incubators and accelerators to make sure that when startups look for help getting started, they also find SoftLayer. We're already working with partners like Springboard, Seedcamp, GameFounders, Startup Sauna, the INLEA Foundation and Tetuan Valley, and the list of supported communities seems to grow daily. When the portfolio companies in each of these organizations are given access to the Catalyst program, that means SoftLayer's Catalyst customer base is growing pretty phenomenally as well.

What I actually like most about how we help startups is the mentorship and office hours we provide participating companies as well. SoftLayer was founded by ten guys in a living room in 2005, and we've got hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue as of 2012. That success is what the SoftLayer team is excited to share insights about.

Hustling is a major part of startup culture, so it's only fitting that I feel like I had to hustle through this blog to get all of my thoughts down. Given that SoftLayer EMEA is a bit of a startup itself, I'm happy to be practicing what we preach. If you'd like more information about Catalyst or you want to apply, please feel free to hit me up: esampson@softlayer.com

We want to be part of your company's success story.

-@EmilyBlitz

*Note: As an homage to Big Tex after the fire, we referred to our meeting as the "Global Catalyst Summit with Big Tex" at the Texas State Fair. We hope to see you back in action in 2013, Big Tex!

March 16, 2012

SLayer 101: A Whirlwind First Week

Having been client in the past, I already had some idea of how amazing the SoftLayer team was. Every interaction I had with the company was fantastic, and though I've worked with hundreds of service providers in different industries, I can wholeheartedly say that the service I received at Softlayer was better than any I'd ever experienced. As you can imagine, that left a pretty phenomenal impression on me.

When the opportunity came up a couple of months ago to interview with Paul Ford and the Community Development team, my response was almost instinctual: I jumped at the chance. Having met him and several members of the team in San Francisco in the past (picture below), I knew the kinds of individuals he surrounded himself with — incredibly smart, talented, hard-working, and just downright COOL people. That's right ... Seldom do you find a team in a corporate environment where you can actually say the people are all awesome — people you would want to hang out with even if you didn't work with them.

Josh and Paul

After going through the interview process, I hopped on a plane to Dallas to visit the Alpha headquarters. In the whirlwind of introductions and training sessions, I was surprised how productive the trip ended up being. I met most of the folks I'll be working with on a regular basis, and I had the opportunity to learn more and more about what Community Development is doing. And I was blown away at how much of that work was being done for other companies. The impression I get is that the impact Community Development is having on the business community is real, it's measurable and it's making a difference. It's impactful. From mentorship to event sponsorship to expert recommendations about infrastructure and architecture, nowhere in the industry can you find a company that works so hard for its customers. Trust me. I looked. Nowhere.

When I returned to San Francisco (where I live and will be based), I happened upon the Game Developers Conference where SoftLayer was present in a big way. I grabbed lunch with an existing client, I could tell their interaction with our team was no different from mine when I was a customer: Both sides clearly work together to find a solution that works for everyone. The interaction seemed to transcend the traditional "client-vendor" relationship, and it was clear that the Softlayer team was deeply committed to the client's mission and product offering.

Learning all of the different ways Softlayer is helping them (beyond providing server and hosting solutions) was would have been astounding ... If I didn't already kind of expect it from my experience. I couldn't help but be ecstatic about what's to come.

I met with the team at the GDC booth and got some more first-hand perspective about how we're embraced by the community. Walking the show floor and coming back to our almost-always-crowded booth (after seeing so many other booths quiet and empty) reinforced my feeling that I joined one of the most exciting companies in the industry. Our Server Challenge kept the booth BUSY for the entire time I was at the show — both days.

GDC Server Challenge

Observing how our team engaged the visitors drove home a point I touched on earlier: That SoftLayer employees CARE about every client and prospect. They asked questions about the attendee's business, what the business's needs were, and (most impressively to me) held back on "the hard sell." And that's pretty unique in itself.

As I embark on week number two of my employment (and beyond), I can't wait to learn more and more so I can become an integral part of the team. If you're ever on the West Coast and want to talk SoftLayer, hit me up!

-Joshua

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